Like all the dogs I’ve met at dog parks, my students are leaving me to return to their real parents. For the last month, I have relentlessly complained about the pain these kids regularly inflict upon me, how they defy my attempts to get them to work, how they call their parents on me, how they push to see just how close they can get me to packing my bags and head for the woods. Even after a month of this onslaught on my peace of mind, I find myself sad to see them go.
Because I love suffering and hate taking breaks, I took a class during the Summer a few years ago during my undergrad. There was only one assignment. We had to write a novel in 10 weeks. For 10 weeks, I obsessed, complained, and suffered over this huge project, and then it was over. In the end, I had poured hours and hours into this monstrous draft, and then it was done, and I missed the misery. That book was utter trash, but it was my trash, and I had worked harder on that trash than I had on anything else up to that point. Despite what I’ve drunkenly yelled at several emails recently, my students are not trash. They’re much better than the awful book I churned out, even if they’ve made me suffer seemingly for their amusement.
Now that their time with me is ending, it’s much easier to recognize how good a group they were. There were certainly bad moments, and some students acted like utter asses for most of our time together, but those students brought it together toward the end, and it is easier and more gratifying in the moment to complain about the unpleasant times than it is to acknowledge the surprisingly decent ones. Teaching feels like seeing a Michael Bay movie: it’s loud, the people are all a little sweaty for no reason, and everything feels like it’s right about to explode. However, it can be really enjoyable if you don’t expect it to be anything else and you learn to work with explosives.
I’ve noticed that as each group of students flees the purview of my iron fist, I am afflicted with what I’ve been told are feelings. During my everyday activity, I try not to feel anything more than vague anger and unremitting disappointment in myself and almost everyone around me. Now, however, I have an uncomfortable warmness where I usually keep my dissatisfaction. Like a confused man petting many lions, I think I feel pride. Despite my best efforts to bring them down to my level, my students are generally optimistic about their future, and they probably should be. I begrudgingly admit that high school students can be clever and creative, and they can actually get work done if it happens to fall under the 34-minute window in the day when they’re motivated to do anything unrelated to the hormonal buzz that has seized their faculties.
I’m comforted by how little I remember the details of some of my high school teachers. I remember general impressions and short vivid scenes, but most of what I have is a vague sense of who they were and how I felt about them. If that same thing applies to these kids, in 10 years they’ll think back to me and live in their vague impressions verified by a few vivid scenes. So they’ll remember I’m weird and like puns and talked about my cat more than anyone should. They’ll also probably remember a fuzzy sense of frustration and rage because writing is hard, and I made them do a lot of it. So in a few years, they’ll think of me as a fluffy-headed, weird-o making bad jokes about writing who they’re mad at but not certain why.